By Doug Levine
It’s a new year and with it comes a slew of awards shows. Now is it just me or are they doling out more and more trophies and plaques these days? This month alone brings four major awards, mostly for film and television. Of course, the Grammy Awards is still “music’s biggest night” of the year, with a star-studded production hosted by LL Cool J on February 10 in the works. One of the jazz nominees to keep an eye on is singer Kurt Elling.
Kurt Elling is no stranger to the Grammy Awards. He’s been nominated a dozen times in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category, winning in 2009 for “Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music of Coltrane and Hartman.” He’s a strong contender with his latest album, “1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project.”
Some of the greatest tunes in pop history were composed at The Brill Building, a Manhattan landmark located just a few blocks north of Times Square. In the early days it rivaled nearby Tin Pan Alley as a magnet for music publishers attracted to the low rent offered during the Depression. Later, composers pursuing publishers moved in, and soon, there were songwriters, managers, producers and promoters on nearly every floor, making records and cutting deals. Over the years, 1619 Broadway became a second home to Johnny Mercer, Neil Diamond, Leiber & Stoller, Laura Nyro and Carole King. Burt Bacharach and Hal David composed “The Look of Love” there. In this clip, Kurt Elling explains there’s no mistaking The Brill Building Sound.
Elling, a transplanted New Yorker originally from Chicago, steered clear of the so-called “New York” songwriters: George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart and Cole Porter. He says, “I wanted to reach out for something different and the vast collection of songs coming out of the Brill Building seemed like a gold mine.”
One of those songs is Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” revived by countless pop, jazz and R&B stars, including Mr. Elling on his Grammy-nominated release “1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project.”